The great waste challenge

Living Well | Lucy Cleeve | Posted on 21 March 2019

Bright ideas for reducing waste from the 2019 Victorian Design Challenge.

More than four million tonnes of waste is sent to landfill in Victoria every year. Digging into the vast statistics on our state’s waste problem is alarming and overwhelming. But what if waste could be rebranded into opportunity? Could great design help to reduce, recover or even eliminate waste? 

Aiming to inspire practical solutions and a better future using design and creativity, the 2019 Victorian Design Challenge called on our state’s finest innovators, from professional designers to primary-school students.

The very best ideas were shortlisted and pitched to an expert panel of judges in the Great Hall at the National Gallery of Victoria on 19 March, during Melbourne Design Week. Chaired by Craig Reucassel from the ABC’s War on Waste, the jury also included Abigail Forsyth, co-founder of KeepCup, and Rebecca Gilling, deputy CEO of Planet Ark.

Professional category winner Rollie, from Studio Periscope. Rollie uses kids’ play power to make compost in a giant hamster wheel.

Professional category winner Rollie, from Studio Periscope. Rollie uses kids’ play power to make compost in a giant hamster wheel.



Simone LeAmon, Waste Challenge host and the NGV’s Hugh Williamson curator of contemporary design and architecture, summed up the event by saying: “The problem of waste affects us all, and as global citizens and Victorians, we must see ourselves as part of the solution.”

And the winners (and finalists) are...

Professional design category

Prize: $15,000

Putting play to work (WINNER)

Rollie – a play-based hot composting system by Melbourne-based industrial design agency Studio Periscope, took home the top prize. Designed for schools, kindergartens and other kid-centric destinations, Rollie is a giant hamster wheel that harnesses the energy from kids’ leg power to quickly turn food waste into valuable compost. “We wanted to find a practical design solution that could make the compost process fun and easy for kids,” says Studio Periscope designer Robert Sim. “There’s no better way for kids to learn about waste than pitching in.”

Bin locks

With the aim of reducing waste dumped by households and stopping illegal dumping in neighbours’ bins, Ideat Studio’s Bin-eficial is a remote-controlled lock that bolts to bins. Council collection trucks would have access to bins and weigh the rubbish, offering incentives to those discarding less waste.

Waste-catching wetland

Studio Edwards presented a floating wetland habitat for Yarra River wildlife with a built-in litter trap. Biodegradable modules created from mushroom and organic waste materials clip together and float on the Yarra, absorbing harmful nitrates and phosphates from the river. The tiny islands grow plants, providing a natural habitat for local birds.

Curved concrete

Curvecrete aims to reduce construction waste – which makes up 40 per cent of Australia’s total waste. Designed by a Melbourne start-up of the same name, the non-combustible material is made by a robotic system and requires no single-use formwork, minimising building waste and increasing the possibilities of design and form.

Tertiary category

Prize: $5000 and an accelerator and mentorship program.

Really disposable plates (WINNER)

Finish your meal and throw your plate on the garden – that’s the idea behind RMIT student Maddison Ryder’s single-use plates made from lettuce. Yes, lettuce. The wasted outer leaves of the humble salad vegie are dehydrated and mixed with xantham gum and beeswax to create a tough, moisture-resistant surface. After use, Lettuce Eat plates break down in water in just 20 minutes.

Better building materials 

Swinburne University student Leixin Du introduced the audience to her innovative building product called Mycoustic, made from winery and agricultural waste. Mycoustic is a flexible, biodegradable acoustic panel that helps to scatter sound. The panels are created from a material made from mycelium, the branching root system of a fungus.

Furniture waste ratings

Joshua Wait and Phoebe Richardson from RMIT devised a waste-rating tag system for furniture manufacturers, with the aim of mandating better transparency. Overall ratings are derived from elements such as water usage, offcuts, distance travelled and energy cost – allowing Victorians to make better choices when buying furniture.

Robert Sim & Lisa Oaten, Studio Periscope for Melbourne Design Week

Studio Periscope’s Lisa Oaten and Robert Sim.


Lettuce Eat, Biodegradable plates made from waste lettuce. Designed by Maddison Ryder.

Lettuce Eat biodegradable plates made from waste lettuce and designed by RMIT’s Maddison Ryder.


Schools category

Prize: A one-day learning package at NGV for 50 students.

A ‘walking’ waste school bus (WINNER)

The primary-school students of the Mill Park Library Makers Club presented a prototype of a Robotic Walking School Bus named R3 (after ‘the three Rs’ – reduce, reuse and recycle). R3 can follow painted lines along a popular walk-to-school route and has built-in compartments to collect recycling and compost. R3’s aim is to pick up children from their homes and ‘walk’ them to school, collecting their organic waste and any litter they pick up along the way.

Fashion upcycling app

Alia Ferdowsian, a Year 8 student from Preshil in Kew, pitched an app targeting teenagers. Alia’s Old to New Fashion app aims to show young consumers of fast fashion practical techniques to reinvent clothes using design and sewing skills. Her hope is for reduced consumption of new clothes and the resources associated with producing it.

Tackling water waste

Year 10 student Katinka Weber, from Northcote High School, presented The Green Tap to tackle the problem of water waste. Designed as both a new tap system or a small part to be retrofitted to existing mixer taps, it has three adjustable flow settings and a mechanical timer with a 10-second water shut-off.